One of the more interesting aspects of the NFL off-season to me is analyzing each individual position and then determining whether or not that particular position is in need of an upgrade.
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have done a pretty good job of filling holes through free agency, and with maybe the exception of defensive end and backup quarterback, there really aren't any glaring needs to be addressed.
It seems as if a lot of focus has been placed on improving the secondary and figuring out the running back position, but I think another position could possibly be in need of an upgrade. We all witnessed firsthand last season, when Dez Bryant went down with an injury, exactly what the wide receiver position looks like, and I think we can all agree that we were left wanting more.
Bryant should be fully healthy and ready to go once the off-season activities kick off, but what about the rest of the receivers currently on the roster?
Let's take a look at the depth chart as I see it:
|1. Dez Bryant||6'2", 220 lbs.|
|2. Terrance Williams||6'2", 208 lbs.|
|3. Cole Beasley||5'8", 180 lbs.|
|4. Brice Butler||6'3", 215 lbs.|
|5. Devin Street||6'3", 200 lbs.|
|6. Lucky Whitehead||5'9", 163 lbs.|
|7. Vince Mayle||6'2", 224 lbs.|
|8. Rodney Smith||6'5", 220 lbs.|
Obviously, Bryant is the #1 wide receiver on this team and a top 10 player at his position. It would probably be wise to take things slowly at first once OTAs and training camp is underway, just to make sure that he is fully recovered from his off-season foot surgery. There is no question about his status with the team or if he will be ready to go once the 2016 season kicks off.
Williams is the #2 wide receiver for the Cowboys, but his inconsistencies have been frustrating. Some games it looks as if he has finally put everything together, whereas others it looks as if he forgot that he was even on the field. Williams is in the last year of his rookie contract and the Cowboys could be looking for someone to challenge him for that #2 wide receiver spot.
Cole Beasley found a role for himself in the slot and to me has locked down that #3 spot on the depth chart. I don't think he has to worry about his job because he has earned the trust of the coaching staff and Tony Romo. He has also proven himself to be a mismatch for opposing defenses, often times being the main target to convert in those third-down situations.
Brice Butler could possibly benefit the most from a full off-season working with a healthy Tony Romo, and as things stand now I have him slated as the #4 wide receiver. Butler showed flashes last season that he can be the deep threat that this team has been without for what seems like forever. He has natural hands to catch the ball away from his body and the speed to run past opposing corner backs. Look for Butler to challenge Williams for that #2 receiver spot if the Cowboys decide not to address the position through the draft.
Devin Street's time with the Cowboys should probably come to an end. He hasn't been able to prove he deserves playing time and the fact that he doesn't contribute on special teams could mean he's playing for a different team in 2016. Personally, I've seen enough of Street that I'm comfortable saying it's time to move on.
Lucky Whitehead is an intriguing player because he can be a dangerous weapon in the open field, but because of his short stature he is best suited to play out of the slot, a position Cole Beasley has a firm grasp on. Like Street, Whitehead could be the low man on the totem pole if the Cowboys decide to draft a receiver, but because he could be the Cowboys main return man, he has a better chance to earn a roster spot.
Vince Mayle and Rodney Smith have the size that the Cowboys seem to covet in receivers, but they could be nothing more than camp bodies and would have a long uphill battle to even earn a spot on the practice squad.
A drafted rookie receiver just knocks them down another spot on the depth chart and all but eliminates them from making the team.
So, as you can see the Cowboys will more than likely try to upgrade the position through the draft and there are several players that could be of interest to them. It all depends on what round they choose to draft a receiver.
If the Cowboys do decide to draft a receiver, who do you want to see wearing a star on their helmet in 2016?
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
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